How many others feel that way?

April 24, 2014

Shane Jones said he would have refused to work with the Greens in government:

Mr Jones has gone blue – National Party blue, off to work for the Government, revealing his hatred for Labour’s Green allies is so deep that he could never have worked in a Labour-Green coalition government, which would likely have co-leader Russel Norman as deputy Prime Minister.
“I would not have been able to work under Russel Norman as Deputy Prime Minister,” he says.
“I’m totally disinterested in a political career where there may have been a dim prospect that he would be my chief. It would be a long day in hell before that happens.” . . .
How many others in the Labour caucus feel that way and who could blame them? But the weaker Labour is the more bargaining power the Greens will have.

Mr Jones says going Green is wrecking Labour.

“I’ve never ever subscribed to the notion that the only way Labour would be strong is by ‘greening’ itself, so we are some sort of version of the Tasmanian Green Party. I never agreed with that.”

Back to Jones.

Mr Jones says Labour would never elect him leader, that Labour has gone too left and left him.

“The test over whether brand Labour is a broad church will rest in the breath of the September vote. Lose no sleep over doubting whether that is the truth.”

So it’s goodbye to the man they call Jonesy and haere ra to Mr Jones. He crusies off into the Pacific, but his parting shot could not be clearer.

The once broad church that housed people like him is becoming so increasingly narrow that it risks being punished in the polls.

It is still a long time until election day in which time a lot could change.
But once more the media is focussing on disarray within Labour which will not endear it to voters.

Greens want 2 deputy PMs

April 19, 2014

Green co-leader Metiria Turei wants to be c0-deputy Prime Minister too.

The Greens could share the deputy Prime Minster role in a coalition with Labour, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman last month said he was keen on the role.

Ms Turei said she would like to be deputy Prime Minister along with Dr Norman.

“There’s no rules that stop there from being more than one deputy Prime Minister,” she told told The Nation.

“Russel and I have had a co-leadership role in the Greens that’s worked very well for the Green Party. I think something similar would work very well for the country as well.” . . .

That is very much a matter of opinion.

From the outside the co-leadership looks very much like tokenism with Norman being the leader in all but name.

He appears to do far more speaking on the party’s behalf than she does.

In spite of National’s popularity and the distrust and disarray on the left, it is possible the left could still be in government.

But when Labour has spurned the Green Party its won’t be keen on one Green deputy let alone two.

And what would happen when the Prime Minister was overseas – would there then be two acting PMs?




Norman helps National again

March 30, 2014

Undecided voters in the centre generally don’t like parties on the extremes of politics.

They don’t wholeheartedly support National or Labour but they prefer them to those at the more radical end of the political spectrum.

They are more likely to favour a stronger major party because of that, knowing that any of the wee parties which are needed to form a government will have a lot less leverage.

That’s one reason labour is struggling.

Some who might support it aren’t at all keen on the thought of the influence a Green Party with a third as many MPs as Labour would have.

Any flexing of muscles by the Greens might appeal to its supporters but it sends those to the right of the left and in the centre further right.

Russel Norman’s announcement he wants to be deputy Prime Minister will excite his party’s grass roots but it will scare a lot of undecided and swinging voters.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman wants to be deputy prime minister if Labour and Greens become government after this year’s election.

Any cabinet formed after the September election should be proportional, and the deputy prime minister role would certainly be on the table, Dr Norman told The Nation today.

“Obviously it depends on the size of the vote,” he said. . .

Keeping talking like that, Russel, it will hurt Labour and help National.


Does this ambition on Norman’s part expose the nonsense of co-leaders. After all, if he and Metiria Turei are truely equal as leaders, why would he be deputy PM ahead of her?

Enemy of affordability

March 20, 2014

Greens like to think they’re friends of the earth.

They aren’t so keen on earthlings, and in their eyes some earthlings are even less equal than others as this exchange during question time yesterday shows:

4. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: Will the Government propose any measures to restrict the sale of New Zealand farmland or residential land to foreign companies or persons?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): We are certainly not going to restrict Australians from buying homes after they migrate to New Zealand. The Government has already restricted overseas investment in sensitive land and residential land. We made changes to the regulations in 2010, which were reflected in a directive letter to the Overseas Investment Office. We believe these changes struck the appropriate balance between ministerial flexibility to consider a wider range of issues when assessing overseas investment and, at the same time, providing clarity and certainty for potential investors. I would note that under this Government the amount of sensitive land approved for sale to overseas buyers has been less than half what it was in the last 5 years of the previous Labour-Greens Government. I would also note that the OECD assesses our overseas investment regime as now one of the more restrictive in the developed world.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he consider that China has any lessons to teach New Zealand regarding foreign ownership, given that China protects its economic interests through restricting land sales to foreign buyers?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member may be more familiar than I am with the tenets of communism, but in China private individuals did not own land until recently, only the Government did, so even the Chinese could not buy land in China. But I am a bit surprised to find that the Greens only ever get this excited about foreign ownership when it involves the Chinese, who happen to have a much lower number of consents than Australia, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, and, I think, Sweden.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he have any concern that more than one in 10 homes in Auckland is purchased offshore and that, according to BNZ economist Tony Alexander, this figure is set to only increase?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I know that the member has been conducting his own investigation into these issues by visiting the home of Kim Dotcom, a well-known foreign investor in Auckland real estate. I cannot confirm the member’s one in 10 number. The BNZ survey that I saw said that about six houses in every 100 are foreign-purchased and about a quarter of those are being purchased by the Chinese, which means that 1.5 houses in every 100 might be being purchased by people whom real estate agents think are residents of China.

Might is the operative word.

If the property isn’t big enough to require Overseas Investment Office approval, the nationality of the purchaser isn’t recorded.

And the fact that some people doesn’t look either Maori or Pakeha doesn’t mean they aren’t New Zealanders.

Dr Russel Norman: When will he and his Government consider there is a problem—will it be when one in five homes is purchased by offshore buyers, or will it be when one in four homes is purchased by offshore buyers? At what point will he acknowledge that there is a problem?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We do not have the same problem about buyers being foreign as the Greens do. What we have a problem with is the very high cost of housing in New Zealand for New Zealanders. And all the analysis shows that the fundamental driver of the high cost of housing is not the Greens’ friends from China; it is the Greens’ friends in the planning departments of our city councils who insist on blocking new development of new housing. So the Greens are a much bigger enemy of the affordability of housing in New Zealand than the Chinese have ever been.

Restrictions on the supply of housing is a far bigger enemy of affordability than foreign buyers.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he consider that an increase in interest from offshore buyers in purchasing residential property in Auckland is increasing the price of housing for New Zealand homebuyers, or does he think that this big increase in demand from offshore is having no effect— that it is a special kind of market where a big increase in demand has no effect on prices?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is not obvious that there is a big increase in demand from offshore buyers. There is some anecdotal evidence that that is the case, and I know that that is certainly believed by some people, but it is yet to be established. The fundamental driver of the increase in housing is restrictive planning policy, which means that when there is more demand—whether it is foreign or, in this case, New Zealanders who have stopped migrating and are staying home and more people who are arriving in New Zealand as migrants—and those factors of demand are rising, the supply cannot react to it. All around the world restrictive planning laws mean higher prices and more volatile prices, and the Greens back that kind of policy. They should be backing the Government on getting rid of that sort of policy if they are really concerned about locking low and middle income New Zealanders out of the housing market.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with Auckland house auctioneer Adam Wang that our ambiguous laws around capital gains tax are assisting the boom in the foreign buy-up of our

housing stock, and does he have any plans to deal with the fact that the capital gains tax exemption in New Zealand is part of the problem driving up house prices?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: All of those issues have been looked at by various inquiries, by the Productivity Commission, and by policy advisers, and it is possible that any one of them has some influence on the price. This Government, though, has focused on the biggest influence, and the most pervasive one, and that is restriction of supply. It is hard to understand why the Greens support housing planning policies that have the effect of driving up the wealth of the leafy suburbs at the expense of middle-income and low-income New Zealanders. I think that if the Greens were really concerned about equity in New Zealand and affordability of housing, they would be supporting the Government’s policies, not the Labour Party’s policies.

Restrictions on supply help those already on the housing ladder.

Labour and Green policies for higher taxes, will not fix that and their policies which will lead to higher inflation and interest rates would reinforce them as enemies of affordability.

How to lose friends and votes

March 5, 2014

Is the Green Party being accused of defamation by Colin Craig or is it one of  its co-leaders?

This media release  says:

The Green Party has launched an appeal to cover the costs of defamation action being taken against the party by Conservative Party leader Colin Craig. . .

“The Green Party will defend the defamation action being brought by Colin Craig because we believe in the freedom of political speech and we believe in an inclusive and tolerant society,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman. . .

That’s very clearly stating the action is being taken against the party.

But the NZ Herald thinks it’s Norman against whom action is being taken:

Mr Craig confirmed this morning that he would start defamation proceedings against Greens co-leader Russel Norman, but with a narrower scope than originally planned.

Mr Craig would first seek a retraction from Dr Norman regarding his statements about the place of women in New Zealand. A claim against Dr Norman’s comments on gays would be delayed. . .

The party has been advised that defending the case was likely to cost around $70,000.

It will launch a campaign today to raise money for Dr Norman’s legal fees. . .

That is clear that it is Norman, not the party, against whom the action is being taken but the party is soliciting donations to help fund the defence.

They might think the co-leader and the party are so intertwined it makes no difference, but members and supporters might feel differently.

When Labour asked its members to help repay the money the party had illegally misspent on its pledge card they were less than impressed.

Many were on low to modest incomes but still happy to raise funds for the party to help it win elections. They were not at all happy about being asked for money to make amends for the consequence of a decision made by senior MPs and party officers.

The action against Norman isn’t in the same league and I think Craig is wrong to pursue it. I agree with the many commentators who’ve said he should harden up.

But Norman could stop the waste of time and money by apologising.

He says it’s about freedom of speech, I think it’s more about his pride and he, and the party, are asking supporters to pay for that.

They are free to do so, and maybe some will.

But others will feel, as Labour supporters did, that their precious spare time, energy and money would be better spent on the cause they believe in, not on an expensive sideshow.

Burning off the goodwill of supporters is never a good idea but the danger doesn’t stop there.

There’s only so much space for news and any attention Norman and his party get for this nonsense is attention not given to matter voters will regard as far more important.

Allowing the action to continue could well lose him and his party friends and votes.

Blue up green down

February 24, 2014

Last night’s One News Colmar Brunton Poll appeared to show National gaining at the Green Party’s expense.

The blue vote went up 6 points and the Green one fell 5 while Labour stayed the same.

But rather than swapping from green to blue it’s more likely that green went red and pink went blue.

Green voters liked Labour’s lurch to the left so moved to the red party but a similar number of voters towards the centre didn’t like the lurch left and moved centre right over to National.

That is the conundrum Labour faces – policies which bolster its support from the left lose it support from the centre.

The poll follows the trend showing steady support for National and little or no progress for the left. The PM is still popular and Labour leader David Cunliffe is not.

There is however, no room for complacency:

Meanwhile National’s election year pitch of boosting teacher performance is proving popular.

But the Prime Minister says his party won’t rest on its laurels, or on the tailwind of a booming economy.

“It’s a good poll but we need to be cautious,” John Key says. “There will be a lot of polls before the election they will bounce around a lot.” . .

 Corin Dann says it’s a wake up call for the left:

The six-point surge in the ONE News Colmar Brunton poll to 51% may well reflect a strong economy and the feel good factor of summer.

However, it also must be acknowledged that Prime Minister John Key has made a strong start to the year.

His popular education policy sending a clear signal to voters that National is capable of fresh ideas and is not a tired government.

Labour leader David Cunliffe meanwhile had his policy launch of a baby bonus derailed by a gaffe and has seemed to struggle for confidence and exposure since. . .

As for the Greens’ big fall in the poll, that is harder to explain. It may be that Russel Norman’s liaisons with Kim Dot Com have hurt the party, or it could also be a reflection of National’s efforts to discredit the party as extremist.

It could also be that more exposure for the Greens is showing up flaws in its policies and that its supporters don’t accept the compromises that would be necessary if it was in government.


How green is your policy?

February 17, 2014

If you want to be green you should recycle, right?

Not necessarily.

Recycling does reduce the amount of waste going to landfills. But that is only one measure of environmental impact.

If recycling uses more energy and/or causes more pollution dumping could be the greener option.

Alternative forms of energy might look greener but as Andrei and Gravedodger pointed out yesterday appearances can be not just deceptive but dirty.

They were commenting on the Green Party policy to provide cheap loans for the installation of solar panels.

When we altered our house 12 years ago we looked into installing solar panels but were advised it would cost too much for too little power.

We investigated solar panels again before undertaking further  alterations a couple of years ago and were told the technology still wasn’t good enough to be worth it this far south.

There might be a better ratio between the cost and benefits further north but that still doesn’t counter the criticism about the environmental cost of making and disposing of solar panels and batteries.

Then there’s the Green’s mistaken assertion that there are no government subsidies involved.

The Green Party’s belief in their ability to make money magically appear seems to have no limits says Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges.

“The Greens’ solar power policy creates low interest loans that make expensive solar power suddenly a cheaper option for kiwi families, with ‘apparently’ no government subsidy involved.

“I have news for the Greens — if it’s a lower interest rate than normal, it must involve a government subsidy. And if it makes the cost of solar power cheaper for families than existing power options it also must involve a subsidy.

“Everyone wants something cheaper but someone has to pay. Solar is about three times more expensive than grid-scale generation from wind, hydro or geothermal power stations. If solar power was to be made more affordable other taxpayers and power users would have to pay for it.

“There is certainly a place for solar in New Zealand, but given the abundance of lower cost renewable alternatives, it can’t be a priority to subsidise solar power or change the rules to suit a specific technology.

“We’ve seen that with expensive solar subsidies in other parts of the world, including Germany and Spain. The irony is that New Zealand already generates 75 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources and the percentage is moving higher without any need for government subsidies.

“No matter how you dress it up the Greens’ grab bag of power ideas, which also includes nationalising power purchasing and a more expensive ETS, will heap higher prices on Kiwi households.

“If the Greens are serious about their policies, they need to front up and explain who pays for all of this, or whether they would roll out Russell Norman’s printing press again.”

David Cunliffe made a mess of his party’s big baby bribe announcement by saying one thing and meaning another.

Norman’s assertion that there are no government subsidies involved is not just misleading, it’s wrong.

If the environmental impact of the materials, manufacture and disposal of everything involved in solar energy is taken into account the claim that this policy is clean and green is also wrong.





Greens no longer so clean

February 13, 2014

The Dotcom reverse Midas touch has struck again - taking the lustre off the Green Party’s reputation for being not just green but clean:

It is bad enough that the Greens are naive enough to sign up to the fan club which accords Kim Dotcom the folk hero status he clearly craves, but scarcely deserves as some modern-day Robin Hood of cyberspace.

Much worse, however, is that it now turns out that party is blithely willing to play politics with New Zealand’s courts, the country’s extradition laws and its extradition treaty with the United States.

Were John Key to allow some right-wing businessman facing extradition to stay in New Zealand in exchange for him abandoning his plans to establish a political party which might drain votes off National, then the Greens would be climbing on their high horses at break-neck speed and leading the charge in slamming the Prime Minister in no uncertain terms. And rightly so.

Yet the Greens seem to be so blinded by Dotcom’s aura that they seem to see nothing wrong with Russel Norman talking to Dotcom about the risks of the latter’s yet-to-be-launched Internet Party wasting centre-left votes, only for the party’s co-leader to subsequently declare that the Greens will probably fight Dotcom’s extradition.

It is all very murky and hypocritical – at best.

By appearing to countenance such a massive conflict of interest through political interference in Dotcom’s potential ejection from New Zealand, Norman has instantly disqualified his party from having any ministerial posts in a coalition with Labour which involve responsibility for the extradition process.

In fact, Norman has probably disqualified his party from having any role in the Justice portfolio full stop. . .

This isn’t the behaviour of anyone wanting to maintain New Zealand’s first place in Transparency International’s corruption index nor is it the actions of a party trying to look like a viable partner in a government in waiting.

It is the case that many people have enjoyed Dotcom’s irreverence whereby he has been the political equivalent of a banana skin upon which the Prime Minister has slipped and fallen.

Amidst all the fun, a lot of people seem to have forgotten Dotcom faces extremely serious allegations in the United States that he has made millions out of copyright theft. . .

It’s the old,  the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Dotcom shares the Green’s dislike of John Key and National.

Norman saw a potential ally because of that but appears to be blind to the danger of dirtying himself and his party with what looks like a decidedly dodgy deal.

Making stuff up

February 6, 2014

It’s so much easier to be in opposition when there’s a lot of bad news around.

Then the politicians can bring out the metaphorical sack cloth and ashes and say how bad things are.

It’s much harder to do that when there’s a growing trend of positive announcements, but that doesn’t stop them trying, even if they have to ensure the facts don’t get in the way of their stories:

Greens leader Russel Norman has joined his Labour colleague David Cunliffe in being caught making stuff up about the economy, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce says.

“Dr Norman really does need to be held to account when he alleges National has failed to grow jobs and wages – when the official statistics show the opposite is true,” Mr Joyce says.

“In the past year alone, 66,000 more people have jobs across New Zealand – the biggest annual increase since 2006.

“And the best source of wage movements is the Quarterly Employment Survey, which the Greens and Labour have agreed over the years to use as the basis for paid parental leave and New Zealand Superannuation.

“Using this measure, average weekly earnings rose 2.8 per cent over the year to December, while inflation was only 1.6 per cent. So, on average, wages are continuing to rise faster than inflation.

“The gains are more significant when measured on an after tax basis. The average weekly earnings, after tax, have gone up 25 per cent since September 2008, compared to inflation of 10 per cent over the same period.

“The Greens and Labour continue to deliberately use the wrong measure of actual wage growth by quoting the Labour Cost Index. In doing so, they are misleading New Zealanders.”

Photo: We are heading in the right direction.

And another piece of positive news:

Greens facing tougher fight

February 4, 2014

The Green Party has never been in government and so never had to compromise in its promises.

That changed in the last couple of weeks when co-leader Russel Norman swallowed a huge dead rat in saying Labour’s support for oil and gas exploration wouldn’t be a bottom line.

That sort of compromise is what they have to do if they want to be in government, but it’s also the sort of thing that loses support from people like Rachel Stewart who says that Norman’s slip let down the people of ‘Green’ land:

. . . Russel Norman’s response to Labour making it crystal clear they would continue with National’s oil drilling agenda was deflating to say the least.

Suddenly he was sure something could be worked out in any coalition talks.

Oh, really?

It was a bit of a wake-up call for me and the many others leaning towards the Greens. It was only January and here was their leader speaking of selling out before he’d even got out of the blocks. . . .

Selling out – that’s what the Greens usually accuse other parties of doing.

They now face a quandary, if they want to look like a partner of a government in waiting, they’ve got to look reasonable and be prepared to compromise – as Norman did last year on his mad money-printing idea and more recently on oil and gas.

But in doing that they’ll lose support from people who aren’t prepared to accept compromise.

The party can expect no help from Labour.

Cunliffe has made it clear he’s determined to increase his party’s vote, even if it’s at the expense of potential coalition partners:

. . . Mr Cunliffe would give few hints as to its plans but said he was focussing on being the largest party in Parliament after the 2014 election to put it in a strong position to form the next Government. It is the first time Mr Cunliffe has been specific about overtaking National rather than talking about the joint Labour-Greens poll lift.

That will be a big ask and requires closing a more than 10 point gap between Labour and National in the polls. That is something it has not come near for the past five years.

His comment indicates Labour will be gunning to try to get some of its vote back from the Greens as well as targeting soft National voters. . .

Swapping votes from the Greens to Labour could give the latter more MPs but wouldn’t increase the left-block. To do that they need to take votes from the centre.

Labour knows that soft National voters are put off by the radical red policies of the Greens and is showing that it will have no compunction about butchering the vote of its potential coalition partner to build its own vote.

It’s not pretty but that’s MMP.


Not Judge Judy

December 3, 2013

Tweet of the day:


Always a risk with candidates

December 2, 2013

No matter how rigorous selection processes are, political parties run a risk with candidates.

No matter how good their credentials are and how well they appear to fit what a party needs when they’re selected, there’s always a danger they won’t stick to the party script.

At best they might not campaign well enough to win votes and they might even lose them.

The danger of rogue candidates is particularly high in seats they’re unlikely to win because it can be harder to find people willing to stand in them unless there’s a good chance they could get list seats.

The risks are bad enough for bigger parties with good back up from MPs, experienced volunteers and the party machine.

They are even greater for wee parties where the talent pool is much shallower and MPs, volunteers and party machine are stretched much more thinly.

It appears that at least some in the Green Party weren’t happy with the way their candidate David Hay performed in 2011.

That could be fair enough – standing for parliament takes a fair bit of self-confidence and candidates’ opinions of themselves can sometimes be considerably higher than that of others.

What doesn’t seem fair, if his version of events is accurate, is the way the party handled the matter:

David Hay today revealed the reason for his leadership challenge, saying that Metiria Turei and Russel Norman had betrayed the core principles of the Green Party and should resign as co-leaders and MPs.

Outside the Green Party offices in Auckland this afternoon, Mr Hay gave journalists a print-out of emails that had passed between himself and Jon Field, the party’s General Secretary, following his interview for the candidate pool. A copy is attached to this release.

The emails reveal that Megan Salole, the Green Party’s 2011 Campaign Manager, had recommended in her secret post-campaign debrief report that Mr Hay should not be accepted into the candidate pool for the 2014 election.  

Mr Hay said “I couldn’t believe the party would allow a recommendation like that to be made, without first raising concerns with the candidate directly and trying to resolve them. I made a formal complaint, which was properly investigated. The party has acknowledged that I was denied natural justice, and has apologised.” 

“But this also raises serious questions about the party’s leadership.  Metiria and Russel must have read that report, and must have known about the recommendation. At no time in the past two years have they, or anybody else, attempted to discuss their concerns with me and try to resolve any perceived problems.”

Two years is a very long time to let something like this fester.

“Metiria and Russel’s actions and omissions in this case have been contrary to the core principles of the Green Party charter principles of appropriate decision making and social justice, and the party’s values.”

“What also concerns me about this is the political risk they took and the folly of their actions.  I these two, with others, set a trap for me two years ago and then sprung it during the candidate selection process.  I can’t understand how they thought that was going to play out. It was a stupid, stupid thing to do.”

“I have completely lost confidence in Russel and Metiria’s ability to lead the Green Party. I no longer trust them or believe what they say. Neither should party members, or New Zealand voters. That is the real reason behind my leadership challenge” said Mr Hay.

“The Green Party is better than this” said Mr Hay. “We have many good, hard working, people in the party who uphold its principles and values. We don’t need these two any more. It is time for them to go.”

This tweet raises a good question about that:

That question aside, the party prides itself on its democratic processes and transparency.

If this version of events is true that’s an idle boast.

If it’s not, it shows the risk parties run with disaffected former candidates.

Democratic processes

November 30, 2013

Electoral law requires parties to use democratic processes in selecting candidates.

Whether Labour’s policy of a female quota for its caucus is a moot point.

So too is the way the Green party is dealing with David Hay who announced he’s challenging co-leader Russel Norman:

The man who challenged Green Party co-leader Russel Norman for the leadership believes the party is trying to kick him off the list.

David Hay says the party’s Candidate Selection and Electoral Process Committee (CSPEC) has recommended to the party’s executive committee that he shouldn’t be in the candidate pool next year.

“I don’t know exactly why the CSEPC made its negative recommendation, but if the party executive accepts it, that would prevent me from being ranked on the party list and therefore from becoming a Green MP next year.”

Mr Hay has been refused a copy of the committee’s report to the executive.

The executive had a tele-conference on October 22, but could not make a decision on his candidacy, Mr Hays says.

“The vote was split 3-6 with some abstentions. Under party rules a 75 percent majority is required for a decision. I have asked executive to make a final decision tomorrow, by simple majority if necessary. I do not intend to appeal it.”. . .

Parties must have the right to determine whether or not someone is suitable to be a candidate but they must use democratic processes to do so.

Even if the man whose candidacy is under question gives permission,  is going against the party’s rule requiring a 75% majority for the decision democratic?



More instability on left

November 27, 2013

A majority of Labour’s caucus didn’t give David Cunliffe their first preferences in the leadership vote.

The difference in views on mineral exploration isn’t the only one in the party and now there’s another sign of instability on the left:

Green Party member David Hay is challenging Russel Norman for the co-leadership of the party.

Mr Hay, 52, ran as the Green Party candidate for Epsom in the 2011 general election and is currently ranked number 16 on the party list.

While he thinks Dr Norman has been doing a “great job”, Mr Hay says he wants to put the current leadership team “to the test”.

“At this stage, I’m testing to see whether there is support within the party for change,” he said. . . 

“I want to put Russel’s leadership to the test: if he wins out, then he will lead the party into government with a renewed mandate.

Not necessarily, recent history of the Labour party here and Labor in Australia shows winning the leadership isn’t necessarily the end of dissent.

. . . Green Party leadership positions are decided by a vote of the delegates at the Annual General Meeting.

This will be held on Queens Birthday weekend in Wellington next year.

Hay’s chances of winning the challenge aren’t great when he’s not even in parliament, although Norman became co-leader before he was an MP.
But the challenge does raise a question over the leadership.
That question will be there for the next six months and the media will take a greater interest in the party’s internal machinations than it has in the past, if only to establish if Hay is a lone voice.
The Green Party prides itself on its internal democracy and it has also maintained a pretty united front in public until now.
This is the first crack in that facade, albeit a very small one.
But if there’s one more could follow and if there’s one thing the public don’t like it’s a party which is fighting fires its members have lit in their own nest rather than concentrating on what really matters for the country.


The point of Landcorp

November 22, 2013

The poor return on assets which Landcorp produces each year raises the question of why the government is in the business of farming.

But there is a point to it as Bill English explained in answer to a question from Russel Norman:

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is actually selling bits of Landcorp all the time. The member may not be aware of it but the point of Landcorp was to preserve lands and survey farms for the purposes of Treaty settlements. As Treaty settlements are executed, the Government is involved in selling bunches of five, six farms. I know that offends the Greens deeply because they think the Government should own all the farms and then shut them down, but, actually, we want to get on with Treaty settlements. Landcorp is buying and leasing farms as well.

The ability to use Landcorp farms in Treaty settlements is a strong argument for the company to continue as an SOE in the short to medium term.

Once Treaty settlements are completed it will be difficult to justify Landcorp’s continued state ownership.

The best plan would be for the farms to be gradually sold and the management arm could probably be sold off separately.

However, National has no plans to sell the company and has made it quite clear that any sale of any share of an SOE would be announced well in advance to allow the public to take that into consideration when voting.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, what is true is that when the National Party sets out to execute a policy that is challenging for the public, we make it quite transparent what we are going to do if we are elected, and we give the voters the chance to cast their votes knowing that those policies have been proposed. I would invite that member to set out just as transparently, and in detail before the election, the impact of his climate change policy on household costs so that voters have the chance to look at that.

We’d all be better able to cast intelligent votes if all parties were clear about the costs of their policies long before we cast our votes.

CIRs past use-by date

November 14, 2013

The Opposition is trying to pressure the government over the referendum on the partial sale of a few state owned assets.

This exchange in Question Time yesterday shows they’re making no traction at all:

1. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Will the results of the state-owned assets referendum in any way influence his Government’s policy to sell State assets; if so, how?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): No.

. . . Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Maybe the way to—[Interruption] Let me relive your past so that you can enjoy it, because we are certainly going to enjoy it on this side. Let us put it another way. This is not the first time, actually, that New Zealanders have heard about the mixed-ownership programme— no. During the 2011 election campaign, Phil Goff described the election as a referendum on asset sales. Russel Norman described the ownership and use of State assets as having become “the defining issue of the election”. The Mana Party said that a vote for National was a vote for asset sales. Well, guess what? We campaigned on it the whole way through, and we won with the largest result in National’s history under MMP and the largest result of any political party under MMP, and Labour got the worst result—

. . . Hon David Cunliffe: Given that more New Zealanders at the last election voted for parties that were opposed to the Government’s assets sales programme, and given that over 327,000 New Zealanders signed the anti – asset sales petition, does he agree that there is unease amongst New Zealanders over his policy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The election campaign in 2011 was dominated by this issue of the mixedownership model. National won that election with a comprehensive majority in any terms. This Parliament has faced on numerous occasions referendums for which there has been significant public opposition, and we do not even know, by the way, what the result of this referendum will be. But the most recent one was when 87.4 percent of New Zealanders opposed the smacking legislation. That was a policy pushed by Helen Clark, the Greens, and a Labour Government, and all that we can say is that Labour arrogantly ignored it. So when Labour members are in Government they just ignore things, and when they are in Opposition they roar like little tigers or lions, or whatever else it is over there that they do.

Hon David Cunliffe: Given that the Prime Minister’s wafer-thin majority looks like it is going to be hanging from the coat-tails of “Crazy Colin Craig”, who believes in binding referendums, does he propose to ignore the results of the next referendum, just like he has ignored and arrogantly refused all the others?

Mr SPEAKER: Again, in so far as there is prime ministerial responsibility, the right honourable Prime Minister.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am prepared to accept that I have got a narrow majority in Parliament, relatively speaking—it is 64 votes. But that is way better than David Cunliffe, who does not even have a majority in his own caucus.

Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister looking forward to receiving his ballot papers in the mail next week so that he can voice his view, albeit the view of a small minority, in favour of asset sales in the referendum?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the member is prejudging the outcome, but what I will be saying when I receive my ballot papers through the mailbox is: “What a waste of $9 million of taxpayers’ money, which the Green Party could have seen spent on vulnerable kids or for a million other good reasons in the Parliament.” Secondly, I will say to myself: “Man, it was amazing the way that they tried to con the New Zealand public that they had signatures they did not have.”, and I will say to myself: “It is just another stunt from the Greens that will not work.”

Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree that it is important that all New Zealanders, even those like himself who are part of the small minority that supports asset sales, participate in our democracy under this legislation and exercise their right to vote in the referendum?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is up to people whether they wish to participate in an electoral stunt, but I will just say this to the member. This is what I want the member to do. When he is going on the radio and he is on TV, and all the various things he does over the next 3 or 4 weeks, I want him to say this. I want him to say: “I am voting against the asset sales referendum that has been put up.”— fair enough—“I will be voting no.”, or whatever he will be voting, and I want him to say to the New Zealand public: “I deeply apologise for being so arrogant as to ignore you on smacking.”, because

that is what that member did. He was part of the party that drove that. When it was about smacking, he said to the public—

. . . Hon David Cunliffe: What does he think is better value for money: the cost of running the antiasset sales referendum, which is $9 million or thereabouts; the $147 million that he spent on ticket clippers for the fire sale of State assets; or the $1 billion that Treasury says he and Bill English have wasted by the fire-sale rushing this sale of energy companies when the market could not absorb the shares?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, firstly, the member is just plain wrong, actually—

Hon Members: No, he’s not.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —as he was yesterday in question time, even though he does not actually want anyone to go and have a look at what he said—which is about the third or fourth time that he has been wrong, but do not worry, we will keep an eye on that. The Government has actually maximised the return that it got from these assets. It has actually sold them into a strong market. If the member is so in favour of referendums and thinks they should be binding, then he will adhere to the one that saw 81.5 percent of New Zealanders wanting the number of MPs to reduce to 99 and he will support the 87.4 percent of New Zealanders who did not want the smacking legislation. That member, like the Green member, cannot have it both ways. They cannot say: “I’ll ignore the public on the ones I don’t agree with them on, but I want to follow them on the ones I do.”

When Citizen’s Initiated Referenda were introduced the results were not made binding on the government for very good reasons.

One of those is that referenda are very blunt instruments and it’s incredibly difficult to word them so they are not ambiguous.

The current one is a case in point.

It asks if people support the partial sale of state owned assets. People who don’t want any sales at all will answer no, but people who would rather SOEs were sold in full could also answer no.

None of the CIRs that have been held so far has been acted on by the government of the day.

That isn’t an argument for making them binding.

It’s an argument for getting rid of them.

That this one was a politicians’ initiated referendum rather than one driven by citizens is another argument for that.

CIRs have passed their use-by date and should be replaced with a more effective and less costly vehicle for influencing government policy.

#gigatownoamaru is working hard to influence the competition to be the southern hemisphere’s first gigatown.

Big numbers but each an individual

November 13, 2013

At least 10,000 people have died and many more have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines:

Four million people are thought to have been affected by the massive storm and 10,000 people are believed to have been killed in the city of Tacloban in the province of Leyte alone after huge waves swept away coastal villages on Friday.

A United Nations humanitarian official described the scale of damage in the Philippines caused by Haiyan as massive and unprecedented. John Ging said 660,000 people fled their homes because of the storm and the UN will appeal for significant international aid for victims.

Devastated communities without food, water and medicines are showing desperation after one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded flattened entire towns and left countless bodies scattered across wastelands.

People in Tacloban woke up to just what they didn’t need on Tuesday – driving rain. With provisions running low, everyone says that food is their main concern.

A BBC correspondent said he saw families straining filthy water through T-shirts to try and remove the dirt and there is a real risk of diseases like dysentery spreading quickly.  . . .

It is difficult to grasp the extent of the devastation, the lives lost, many more still at risk, homes destroyed, schools trashed, businesses ruined . . .

With numbers as big as these it is important to remember that each is an individual and that, just as we are seeing in Christchurch, the end of the storm won’t be the end of the problems.

Parliament began yesterday by offering messages of support to the victims.

Before question time in the House this afternoon, Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader David Cunliffe both offered their condolences following the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines this week.

“Images we are seeing out of the affected areas are deeply harrowing and I know that all New Zealanders will be moved by them,” Mr Key said.

New Zealand had learned firsthand from the Canterbury earthquakes no country has to face a destructive natural disaster alone, he said.

“The international community always stands ready to help.” . . .

Unfortunately one MP let politics get in the way of the condolences.

In contrast, Dr Norman used his time to read a speech from the head of the Philippines’ delegation to the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland.

His speech drew audible groans from the MPs and a number of negative tweets from politicians, including National MP Tau Henare and Labour MP Shane Jones.

After a point of order from co-leader Metiria Turei, Speaker David Carter said Mr Norman had the right to make a speech, “but it would be better if it was delivered without a political message”. . .

This was the wrong time and place for such a message.

Who do you trust?

November 8, 2013

Duncan Garner critique’s Prime Minister John Key of the fifth anniversary of his government.

He gives him 7.5/10 and concludes:

Your choice is between John Key and Bill English with a few rag-tag minor right wing parties – or David Cunliffe and Russel Norman – with perhaps Winston Peters in tow.

Who do you trust?

To which a commenter answers:

Let’s not forget his development into a well respected leader in the region as the last APEC conference in Bali showed. And he’s the only Commonwealth leader to ever have been invited to Balmoral – surely that’s worth an extra point :-)

Given all the challenges that have been thrown at Key over the past 5 years, easily a 9.5 out of 10. The answer to your last question is a no-brainer, Cunliffe and Norman in charge is a very scary prospect and when voters enter the booth in November 2014 I think in their hearts they’ll know Key and English are the people to trust. Key to win by a nose next year.

The outcome of next year’s election is very finely balanced.

Labour has more potential coalition partners but it’s still not very strong itself and the prospective of  its possible partners in government may well put off more voters who might be considering voting for Labour.

National has fewer potential partners but is stronger itself.

A still weakened Labour with a strong (for a wee party) Green Party plus  any or all of New Zealand First, Mana, the Maori Party and possibly Peter Dunne is a much more radical and less stable option than a strong National Party with two or three partners.

#gigatownoamaru is backing itself but welcomes support from anywhere to become the Southern Hemisphere’s first gigatown.

Cunliffe chickens out, Norman steps in

November 6, 2013

Advertising on the Farming Show used to be the most expensive on the Radio Network.

It probably still is because it’s now broadcast nationwide. It’s listened to by a broad audience and not just beyond town boundaries.

I do an occasional spot on the show and often meet people from all around the country, urban and rural, who’ve heard me.

Host Jamie Mackay has a successful recipe with a blend of farming and wider rural issues mixed with sport, music and politics.

It’s the sort of show you’d think an aspiring Prime Minister would want to appear on but one has chickened out:

There’s a certain irony in the position I find myself in with Labour leader David Cunliffe.

You see, David C has red-carded me.

Meaning, for the first time since 2000, when then Prime Minister Helen Clark agreed to a weekly slot, I will not be interviewing the Labour leader on the Farming Show.

Rightly or wrongly, Cunliffe says he won’t get a fair hearing, that we will make fun of him. Heck, we make fun of everyone, including ourselves.

Jamie does make fun of some of his interviewees but the political segments are usually pretty straight. In fact with my ever so slightly blue bias I think he sometimes let Cunliffe’s predecessors and agricultural spokesmen away too lightly.

Had Cunliffe or his media team bothered to listen to the show archives, available here, they’d have known that he’d get a fair go.

I think he has unfairly pigeon-holed me. He needs to understand some of my political history before he consigns me to the National Party lackey file. . .

Brought up in a family where Norman Kirk was admired more than Keith Holyoake, Jamie voted for Social Credit in his first two elections, in 1984 he voted against Rob Muldoon and for Bob Jones, didn’t get round to voting in 1987 and had his first vote for National in 1990.

Even then it was a vote more for a candidate than a party because I liked the cut of a young buck the Nats had dragged down to his home province of Southland from The Treasury in Wellington.

His name was Bill English and he looked like he at least had a bit of spark in him.

However, considering I’m probably in the 10% of New Zealanders who pay 70% of the tax, considering I’m a self-employed business owner with farming interests and considering I still bear the farming scars from some incredibly short-sighted, militant union behaviour in the 1970s and 80s, why would I vote Labour now? 

There’s nothing for me in their policies of higher tax, greater environmental and economic handbrakes for farming and re-unionising the workforce. . . .

So here’s my message for PC David C, which unfortunately I can’t pass on personally. 

If you really want to be the next prime minister, get your teeth into some issues that affect middle and low-income NZ – jobs, education, health, and the minimum wage are traditional Labour strongholds.

Attack National where you have an inherent political advantage and where it might have dropped the ball.

On second thoughts, I might save that message for my new Farming Show correspondent, Dr Russel Norman.

I heard Jamie a couple of weeks ago saying Cunliffe wasn’t coming on the show and he said the same thing this week.

I thought he meant just those days, after all what politician would turn down the opportunity for nationwide publicity on the radio?

But no, it wasn’t just couple of instances that didn’t suit his diary, he’s given the show a flat no for the worst of all reasons, that he wouldn’t get a fair hearing and he’d be made fun of.

How precious is that?

A politician who can’t stand the very gentle heat of the Farming Show isn’t going to cope with the much hotter temperature in other media and parliament.

He wouldn’t have been made fun of unfairly on the show but he will be now.

Jamie’s column is in the current edition of the Farmers Weekly which is delivered free to every rural mail box in the country and sold in book stores and dairies. It’s in the FW’s digital edition and on the website (to which I’ve linked above).

It will be on the Farming Show website soon.

I’ve already heard Jamie mention Cunliffe’s no-show and he’ll keep doing it. he’ll probably mention it to his cousin, political journo Barry Soper, who has does a spot on the show each Friday.

Prime Minister John Key has a weekly interview on the show. He sometimes get a little borax poked at him by Jamie and handles it well. His customary good humour and ability to laugh at themselves will continue to provide a contrast with Cunliffe who was scared of a gentle ribbing.

Deputy PM and Finance Minister Bill English, Minister  for Primary Industries Nathan Guy and Deputy Speaker Eric Roy,  are also regulars on the show. So are Labour’s Primary Industries spokesman Damien O’Connor and former MP now Vice Chancellor of Massey Steve Maharey. In the past former PM Helen Clark, then-National party leader Don Brash, former Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton, former MPI Minister David Carter and Cunliffe’s former leader David Shearer were all on each week.

Since Cunliffe won’t front, Jamie has invited Russel Norman to replace him.

All of these people are or were willing to front Jamie regularly but Cunliffe isn’t.

But worse than this – one of his challenges was to assert himself as leader of the opposition, a position Norman had assumed while David Shearer led Labour.

Instead, he’s handed his rival a free pass to a slot that should have been his own on the Farming Show.

In doing so he’s shown himself a little too concerned with his own image and a little less confident of his own ability than he would like the world to think.

#gigatownoamaru doesn’t chicken out.

Does Cunliffe prefer NZ First to Greens

October 18, 2013

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman was de facto leader of the opposition while David Shearer led Labour.

Under David Cunliffe the party is lurching to the left, crowding the Greens and leaving them with less of that political oxygen which comes from media exposure.

Trans Tasman makes an interesting observation about this:

There also seems to be a closer rapport between Labour under Cunliffe with NZ First’s
Winston Peters.
This suggests Cunliffe wants to follow Helen Clark’s tactics, when he gets the chance of forming a Govt, of embracing NZ First, and leaving the radical Greens with little choice except to back him from the sidelines. The difficulty with this is Labour’s own policy of raising the age of eligibility for NZ superannuation from 65 to 67. A bottom line for NZ First is no tampering with the age of eligibility for superannuation.
That’s a policy a lot of Labour supporters won’t be happy with either so it wouldn’t be too big a dead rat for Cunliffe to swallow in coalition negotiations if it meant he could leave the Greens out of a coalition.
That would of course depend on Labour being in the position to form a government and the easiest way to prevent that is to keep National in power.


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